Goaaaaaaal, the most passionate feat in sport. Its beauty is in its rarity. Football or soccer is the only sport in the world where too much of a good thing is frowned upon, and perhaps the only sporting skill that steroid will not scar. Every four years, the precious goals reach an even higher level. To score a goal during the World Cup may be harder than winning a gold medal in the Olympics. The following net assaults are in many ways, “goal of goals”.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere also shares a love of soccer. In 1974 they qualify for their first World Cup and draw the mighty Italians. In the opening minutes of the second half, Haitian striker Emmanuel Sanon receives a beautiful through pass and speeds towards the great Dino Zoff, the Italian keeper with a 19 game shutout streak on the line. Sanon dribbles past the last Italian defender, Zoff dives at his feet to cut off his angle, but Sanon fires a mighty left foot into the back of the net. A World Cup goal that catapults Sanon to immortality.
All crimes are senseless. In 1994 Colombia plays their second match against the USA. Losing is not an option, especially to the Americans. An unlucky bounce off the foot of the brilliant Colombian defender Andres Escobar, puts the ball at the back of the Colombian’s net – an own goal. The Colombians lose the match and are sent home unfulfilled. Days after his arrival, Andres Escobar is shot by a man yelling Goal, Goal Goal, while pulling the trigger 12 times. Colombians are not senseless and certainly do not reflect the action of a deranged man. Hundreds of thousands attend Escobar’s funeral and many still carry his picture to games in his hometown.
Geniuses come in all shape, form and color, displaying their unique artistry through music, academics, arts or even on the ball field. Diego Maradona is such a genius. His skills and achievements are near the top of the soccer summit. Geniuses sometimes find colorful ways to make things happen. Such is the case of the famous phantom goal. Diego leaps for a ball that’s clearly out of his reach. He punches the ball into the back of the net with his hand, a no-no in soccer. The crowd, television audience and even his own teammates see the infraction, all except the referee who allows the goal to the celebrating little genius. Later he augments his fame by calling it the goal scored by the hand of God.
The US is not a soccer nation, yet we are a country of immigrants. It seems that to be an American, all new arrivals must somehow forget their love of the sport. In the 1950 World Cup, an immigrant had a momentary American lapse of reason. Joe Gaetjens, born in Port-au-Prince, yes from that same, poor island as Emmanuel Sanon, becomes a member of the American squad, on the promise that he will apply for American citizenship. The great English team was then considered to be invincible. Beating the rag tag American squad was a definite certainty. Instead, a scoreless battle ensued, until Gaetjens scores a majestic goal to put the English squad away, in what is now referred to as the miracle on grass.
Legends are people who perform feats that are thought to be impossible. Imagine a 17 year old scoring a goal in the final of the biggest game, against the best team on the planet. Yet it happened, as Pele scores not once, or twice but three times. His third goal has him lobbing the ball over a Swedish defender, and volleying a bullet past the diving goalie, while the defender continues searching for the ball. That goal cemented his legendary status, as he went on to score over a thousand goals in his illustrious career.
The World Cup is history, watch it, live it and enjoy the passion.